Columbus Dispatch: Stephen Markovich: fighter pilot, doctor and now CEO of OhioHealth

By Megan Henry

Sitting behind Stephen Markovich’s desk are models of an A-7D and an F-16C, two aircrafts he flew in the Air Force and Ohio Air National Guard.

Before assuming the role as OhioHealth’s new president and CEO, Markovich spent part of his career taking to the skies as a military leader.

“I had two career goals as a young man: I wanted to be a doctor and I wanted to be a fighter pilot,” Markovich said recently while sitting in his office at the new OhioHealth David P. Blom Administrative Campus near Clintonville, which is named after Markovich’s predecessor who stepped down at the end of June.

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Markovich, 60, who took over as OhioHealth’s top leader on July 1, has well-surpassed both those goals and says he’s now focused on bettering one of central Ohio’s major hospital systems.

“We need care to be simpler, we need care to be very accessible for everyone that needs care, and we’ve got to figure out how to make it affordable,” he said. “We’ve been here for more than 100 years. It’s my job to make sure we’re here for another 100 years.”

He said OhioHealth needs to be more digitally focused and to enhance health care in all of the communities that the hospital system serves — not just Columbus.

“Do we need to do more and more novel communication techniques like telemedicine? Absolutely,” Markovich said. “Do we need to make sure that we can get specialty services to more remote parts of the state? Absolutely.”

OhioHealth has 12 hospitals with 2,400 beds in 47 counties across the state and employs about 30,000 physicians and other employees.

In fiscal year 2019, OhioHealth had 3,207,000 emergency department visits and 173,000 admissions. And in fiscal year 2018, the hospital system had operating revenues of $4 billion.

“Growth is an imperative for us,” Markovich said. “First and foremost, we are focused on good quality, a great patient experience and trying to figure out how to do this in a way that is simpler for everyone and more affordable.”

He said OhioHealth will continue to invest in its hospitals and clinics across the state.

“We believe very strongly that care should be delivered as close to your home as possible,” Markovich said.

With his military background, Markovich brings a unique perspective as OhioHealth’s new leader as he oversees the hospital system, said John Palmer, an Ohio Hospital Association spokesman.

“What he has achieved so far in his career will be beneficial to the organization,” Palmer said.

Markovich’s passion for airplanes and a desire to serve fueled his military career before retiring in October as the commander of Ohio’s Air National Guard. He plans to use the skills he learned in the military in his new role leading OhioHealth.

“I think both roles are very similar in that they are both very mission focused,” Markovich said. “It’s both about being very clear about what it is you are trying to accomplish and everybody that is participating is doing it out of a sense of service.”

Health care is in Markovich’s blood, he said. His mom was a nurse, his sister is a chief nurse and his grandma was a nurse.

“The idea of health care was in my family for a long time,” he said. “I love science and I love people. I thought it would be a very, very rewarding and fulfilling career.”

He admits, however, that having an administration job wasn’t always in the cards.

“Sometimes when you’re called, you need to step up and that’s what happened,” he said.

Markovich isn’t the only new CEO of a central Ohio hospital system. Tim Robinson assumed the role of CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital also on July 1, and Mount Carmel Health System named interim CEO Michael Englehart to replace President and CEO Ed Lamb, who will step down July 25 following an investigation into Dr. William Husel, a former intensive-care physician who is accused of ordering excessive and potentially fatal doses of painkillers for 35 patients.

Born and raised in Detroit, Markovich has a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in business administration from Wright State University in Dayton, and a medical degree from Ohio State University. He did his residency at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in family medicine and hasn’t looked back.

He was the president of Riverside Methodist from 2010 to 2014 and before that held various leadership positions at the hospital, including chief operating officer, vice president of clinical services, associate medical director, and associate and assistant director of the Family Practice Residency program. The Dublin resident also has practiced as a family and emergency physician at Riverside Methodist and worked as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Ohio State University.

His most recent position at OhioHealth was executive vice president for a year. Before that, he was senior vice president for acute care operations from 2017 to 2018, where he oversaw OhioHealth’s central and regional hospital operations, home care, nursing and inpatient case management, among other things.

Markovich succeeds David Blom, who was the CEO of OhioHealth for 17 years and oversaw OhioHealth as it nearly doubled its facilities, doubled its staff size, tripled its operating revenue and quintupled its charity-care budget.

Markovich understands the major issues surrounding health care in central Ohio, particularly infant mortality, opiates and behavioral health, said Jeff Klingler, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Hospital Council.

“He’s been in the community for a long time, so these issues are not new to him,” Klingler said.

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